All I would like for Christmas is for Michelle Wu and the enterprise group to get alongside

Wu began the 12 months fulfilling a marketing campaign promise to clear the tents on Mass. and Cass and place homeless folks in transitional housing. Wu hasn’t solved homelessness but and an open-air drug market persists in that a part of the town, however she and her crew stay vigilant.

Wu ended the 12 months on a glamorous be aware with Boston internet hosting the celebrity-filled “Earthshot Prize” given out by the Prince and Princess of Wales. Sure, William and Kate had been truly right here for 3 days! They visited Metropolis Corridor, and I bought shut sufficient for a very good photograph.

However there’s some regrettable information to share, too. All isn’t nicely between the mayor and elements of the metropolis’s enterprise group.

I don’t know if it’s a generational divide or a gender hole, however relations between the mayor and conventional enterprise varieties have turned more and more detrimental recently. As a longtime enterprise columnist for the Globe, I’ve been getting an earful.

As everybody is aware of by now, Wu doesn’t have a lot of a relationship with company bigwigs and actual property builders. She spent eight years on the Metropolis Council — even serving as its president for a time period — however enterprise of us backed different candidates in final 12 months’s mayor’s race, notably Performing Mayor Kim Janey and then-Metropolis Councilor Annissa Essaibi George.

Then Wu received, handily. And also you’d assume bygones can be bygones. Actually builders are able to make peace and have their tete-a-tete with the mayor, simply as they did together with her predecessors.

Wu, nevertheless, was terribly busy the primary half of the 12 months, filling key posts in her administration, such because the police commissioner, faculties superintendent, and chief planner. There was additionally a pandemic to handle. However by summertime, Wu indicated she wished to get to know the enterprise group higher.

Mayor Michelle Wu at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the 51-story tower underneath development atop South Station in September.John Tlumacki/Globe Employees

“As our crew will get solidified, I’ll have extra time for extra of these conferences and appearances,” she informed me then.

From what I’ve gathered, Wu has been meeting more business leaders, however on her phrases. Not a lot one-on-one, however quite in teams, typically by trade, resembling biotech or banking, as a part of a dialog about items of her coverage agenda, whether or not it’s workforce coaching within the life sciences or small enterprise lending.

Builders — who depend on Metropolis Corridor greater than most, to get their initiatives accredited — have additionally been getting extra consideration with the hiring of recent Boston Planning & Improvement Company director Arthur Jemison in Might.

Nonetheless, that hasn’t been sufficient. Whereas Wu believes in empowering her Cupboard members, enterprise honchos don’t need proximity to energy. They need a direct line.

Actual property varieties have been so determined to get to know the mayor they’ve been internet hosting fund-raisers for her all 12 months lengthy. One invitation learn: “A breakfast in assist of Mayor Michelle Wu / Recommended contribution: $200, $500, $1000 / Checks might be made out to ‘The Wu Committee.’ “

The mayor politely reveals up, although some have informed me she appears uncomfortable at these occasions.

On the one hand, I get it. Wu owes them nothing. She received on a populist agenda. She would quite hang around with small enterprise house owners, group activists, and constituents than wealthy white guys who wish to feed their egos and fill the skyline with towers.

Alternatively, the mayor must preserve the event growth from going bust and ensure downtown can climate the rise of hybrid work. Almost three-quarters of the town’s income comes from property taxes, and Wu’s plans to spice up inexpensive housing and assist Boston deal with local weather change shall be loads simpler if builders are a part of the answer.

So Wu is strolling a wonderful line right here. She’s proper that the town’s pro-development strategy hasn’t labored out for a lot of residents, but alienating the enterprise group will make it tougher to enact her formidable agenda.

The primary large take a look at got here final week when Wu proposed a steep enhance in so-called linkage charges that industrial builders pay to assist fund inexpensive housing and supply workforce coaching. Wu can be recommending that housing builders enhance the put aside for inexpensive housing in new buildings from 13 % to 17 % of a mission’s sq. footage.

Wu toured the East Boston waterfront with Prince William and Princess Kate to point out them the town’s sea degree resiliency efforts. David L. Ryan/Globe Employees

Some enterprise and actual property leaders fear the proposals may pose a chilling impact on improvement in Boston, from lab house to housing. Some builders say privately they could pursue initiatives exterior of the town as a result of Wu’s insurance policies are driving up the price of doing enterprise.

Greg Reibman, president of the Charles River Regional Chamber, which represents companies in Newton, Needham, Watertown, and Wellesley, put a pointy level on it in a latest publication: “Mayor Wu simply did the burbs a favor.”

All of this will really feel like first world issues. However right here’s why the standoff is dangerous for Boston. The enterprise group has had the ear of the mayor for greater than half a century, and Boston wouldn’t be the financial powerhouse it’s at present with out the precise stability of give and take.

Enterprise leaders need extra entry to the mayor as a result of finally they’re pouring tens of millions, generally billions of {dollars}, into the town, they usually wish to know if Boston is a worthy funding. They’re on edge, greater than ordinary, due to financial headwinds from excessive rates of interest and recession issues.

In the end, Wu and the enterprise leaders are on the identical crew: Each need Boston to be the very best metropolis it may be.

And if all that sounds too hokey, how about this: Wu has to recollect to maintain her buddies shut and her enemies nearer.

Properly, that’s all for now! Trying ahead to 2023 ― and right here’s hoping subsequent 12 months’s Christmas letter is a little more upbeat.

All the very best,


Shirley Leung is a Enterprise columnist. She might be reached at [email protected]

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